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NK military delegation in Russia after Putin-Kim pact

July 9, 2024 - 17:42 By Ji Da-gyum
The North Korean military training delegation, led by Kim Kum-chol, President of Kim Il Sung Military University, departs Pyongyang for Russia on Monday in this photo provided by the state-run Korean Central News Agency the following day. (Yonhap)

North Korea has dispatched a military training delegation to Russia, marking the first military exchange since the two countries signed a mutual defense treaty in mid-June. The move has drawn warnings from Seoul that any action aiding North Korea's military buildup contravenes UN sanctions.

The delegation, comprising military training officials from the Korean People's Army and led by Kim Kum-chol who serves as the president of Kim Il Sung Military University, departed Pyongyang for Russia on Monday, North Korean state media reported on Tuesday.

Further details on the visit including purposes of the trip have not been disclosed in the state media report.

Kim Il Sung Military University, often referred to as "Kim Il Sung Military Academy," is North Korea's premier institution for training senior military officers. The university was established primarily to provide specialized retraining for military commanders at the company level and higher, according to the database provided by the Unification Ministry.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry emphasized on Tuesday that "any form of military cooperation that could strengthen North Korea’s military capabilities is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions."

"The Foreign Ministry has been closely monitoring military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, including arms transactions, in coordination with allied countries such as the United States," ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said during Tuesday's regular briefing, declining to provide further details on the visit by the North Korean delegation.

"Our government will sternly and resolutely respond to any actions that threaten our security with the international community including the ally and allied countries," Lim added.

The dispatch of the delegation came less than a month after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on June 19 to elevate their relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during Putin’s visit to Pyongyang.

The core of the treaty aims to enhance defense and security cooperation and includes a mutual defense commitment.

Article eight of the treaty stipulates that "the two sides shall provide mechanisms for taking joint measures with the aim of strengthening the defense capabilities for preventing war and ensuring regional and global peace and security."

The North Korean military delegation’s visit to Russia occurred amidst a heated exchange of rhetoric between Seoul and Moscow over military cooperation between North Korea and Russia.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Monday publicly dismissed South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s remarks made in an interview with Reuters earlier in the day, stating that "The future direction of Korea-Russia relations depends entirely on Russia's attitude."

Yoon said "I hope Russia will make a wise decision about which side, South Korea or North Korea, is more important and necessary to them," denouncing that "military cooperation between Russia and North Korea poses a distinct threat and a grave challenge to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Europe."

In response, Peskov said, "We oppose this approach. We completely disagree with this approach. We support building good relations with all countries in the region, including North Korea and South Korea," when asked to comment on Yoon’s remarks.

“In fact, we currently have North Korea as our partner, while South Korea has joined the anti-Russia sanctions," Peskov told media.

"It is difficult to understand what (Yoon) means. We support building good relations with all countries. However, how can we establish friendly relations with countries that maintain a hostile stance towards us?" Peskov added.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it had no comment on Peskov’s remarks in response to Yoon's statements.